UPDATED 07/11/12 – 9:50 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Four youngsters are among the latest victims caught in Chicago’s gun violence epidemic, including two middle school-aged girls who were wounded in a neighborhood park on the Far South Side.READ MORE: 5 Killed, 38 Wounded In Weekend Shootings Across Chicago
As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, it was a typical evening for Nakia Turner, 12, and Tishona Polk, 13, as they played in Cooper Park, at 117th and Ada streets on the cusp of the Morgan Park and West Pullman neighborhoods.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports
Suddenly around 7:45 p.m., shots rang out, and both girls were hit.
“She got hit and she just kept going,” said Nakia’s uncle, Cory Henderson. “She didn’t have any time to stop. You know, she panicked.”
Tishona suffered a gunshot wound to the upper leg, and was released from Roseland Community Hospital Wednesday morning. She’s now resting at home. Nakia suffered a gunshot wound to the abdomen and is recovering from surgery at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.
“It went through close to her chest area, and it traveled about three inches before it came out,” Henderson said.
Nakia woke up from her second surgery in the mid-morning hours Wednesday.
CBS 2’s Marissa Bailey reports Tishona returned to the park Wednesday night, as police met with local residents to discuss community involvement in anti-crime initiatives.
“I’m feeling good,” Tishona said, walking on crutches a day after she was shot in the leg. That was all she said before taking a seat next to friends and neighbors.
Police called it “Operation Wake Up.” It’s an effort not only to find the gunmen responsible for the shooting, but also for police to get the community to work together and get out a single message to local residents.
“These gang bangers have no mercy, no pity,” Annie Johnson said.
She brought her granddaughter Arianna to the community meeting, in hopes that maybe one day her neighborhood will be peaceful again, the way it was 44 years ago when she moved in.
“We got a new mall, new library, new Salvation Army [the Kroc Community Center], and the gang bangers going around shooting the kids, it’s just not right,” Johnson said.
Brent Taylor said he came to Wednesday night’s meeting to let his fellow teens know that shooting and violence are unacceptable.
“I think that this park, you should be able to come and play if you’re little, or whatever. You need to be able to have a place to play,” he said.
More than 100 neighbors showed up. Many signed up to get more involved, and some – like Arianna – just wanted to send a message to gang members.
“There’s no need to do violence,” Arianna said. “If you get mad at somebody, just be mad. You shouldn’t have to do violence.”
Police Supt. Garry McCarthy also attended the meeting, but asked the media not to film his address to the community, as he wanted to “talk to the neighborhood directly.” An applause broke out after that.
So far, police have no suspects in the girls’ shooting.
Both girls are expected to recover from the shooting, which happened in a police beat that has seen at least 10 other people wounded by gun violence just this year alone, the Sun-Times Media Wire reported.
After she was shot, Nakia managed to run three blocks to the newly-built Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center, about two blocks south, to get help.
Salvation Army Corps Sgt. Major Vincent Johnson, saw Nakia at the community center.READ MORE: 16-Year-Old Boy Grazed In Hand By Men Who Were Shooting At Each Other As He Took Out The Garbage In Englewood
“She was very emotional, and we called 911 through our security,” he said.
Meanwhile, Tishona ran home to her mother as she was shot in the leg. Her mother, Mildred Shorter, said she was in shock after her daughter was shot.
“My heart jumped out of my body,” Shorter said. “My heart just jumped so far out of my body, I had to just take a deep breath.”
Shorter said her daughter was shot in the upper leg.
“My heart just jumped out of my body, and I just thank God, you know, I’m a praying woman. My family is a praying family, and bullet just went in her and came out of her,” she said.
Johnson said it was a good thing Nakia went to the community center, since other parts of the neighborhood aren’t nearly as safe.
“There are a lot of places she could have ran, but she chose to came here because of the relationship we have formed in the community,” he said. “I’m very grateful for us to be here to establish that sense of safety here.”
But CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports that sense doesn’t extend very far.
Henderson said it’s more than simple fear for local residents, due to the violent crime in the area.
“I don’t think they’re scared, they’re terrified,” Henderson said.
Shorter said, “You have elderly over here. You have babies over here. You have just people, period. And they want to live regular lives, their lives without worrying about ‘Okay, if I come outside, am I gonna get shot today?’ And that’s what these children, that’s what these kids are experiencing over here.”
Shorter said her entire block has been filled with a sense of paranoia, because of the violence in the neighborhood.
“You just don’t never know who’s on what, who’s gonna do what. So it’s like, do you feel safe? No you don’t feel safe,” she said.
Henderson says his 3-month-old son could have been a victim too. He almost went to Cooper Park with the girls Tuesday night.
“This is just another act of senseless violence. These young guys in this neighborhood just want to take it out on each other, and the kids are getting the feedback from it. They should be able to go to the park.”
A few hours after Tishona and her friend were shot, a 14-year-old boy was wounded by gunfire as he stood in a vacant lot in the nearby Roseland neighborhood.
The boy was standing in the lot in the 10700 block of South Perry Avenue when he was shot in the knee around 10:33 p.m., police said. He was driven to Roseland Community Hospital, where he was reported in good condition, police told the wire.
Around the same time, on the cusp of the East Chatham and Avalon Park neighborhoods, a 19-year-old man sitting on a front porch was shot in both arms and the left side.
Police say a car pulled over, a man got out and fired shots at the victim in the 1100 block of East 81st Street near the Metra Electric Line tracks, around 10:30 p.m.
The man was taken to Advocate Christ in critical condition.
All of this comes as city officials are making vocal efforts to stop gang violence. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is angry in particular about shootings that have wounded children, and he had a message for gang members as he spoke with Scott Pelley for the CBS Evening News Monday night.
“Take your stuff to the alley,” the mayor said. “Don’t touch the children of the city of Chicago. Don’t get near them.”
Shorter said more attention to the gun violence crisis is needed from all sides.MORE NEWS: Woman Shot While Asleep In Bed By Man Who Got Into Her South Shore Home
“I would love for the mayor to come out. I would love to see rallies taking place. I would love to see more parents come out and support the rallies, because the violence has to stop,” she said. “There’s so many innocent people that’s getting shot.”